In One Night In Bangkok (HBO Max), Mark Dacascos plays a man on a mission to settle some scores. His rideshare driver eventually figures out what her passenger is up to, but the bigger mystery is why this ripoff of Collateral masquerading as a tribute needed to be made at all.
ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: It’s 4pm, and a man in a grey suit, traveling business class, has landed at Suvarnabhumi Airport. He’s arrived in Bangkok, Thailand with no luggage other than a toothbrush. He takes a train to the city center, and accepts a package from a courier. It is the pistol he’ll need to perform his tasks. One Night In Bangkok doesn’t hide from its Collateral comparisons, right down to the color of the killer’s suit. But instead of Tom Cruise’s amoral hitman Vincent, Bangkok has Mark Dacascos as Kai, whose list of targets was made for a more personal reason. Dacascos, the B-movie martial arts regular and erstwhile Iron Chef America host, got a big boost in 2019 when he appeared in John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum as Zero, one of the killers on the hunt for Keanu Reeves. But here, the veteran actor’s expressive eyes and painfully fervent sincerity are played way, way down, so much so that Bangkok often slows to the pace of that city’s infamously snarled traffic. And the Jamie Foxx cabbie role? This time around, it’s a young Thai local named Fha (Vanida Golten), and she’s a rideshare driver. So at least One Night In Bangkok offers one novel update to Michael Mann’s 2004 urban tone poem.
Kai pays Fha to drive him around for the entire night, and as he begins rubbing out his marks, their conversation turns to broad meditations on free will, decision-making, the weight of guilt, and how people are like fish. (“Some are really dumb and easy to catch,” Kai muses. “Others are extremely smart and much more difficult to catch.”) Darwin, shit happens, I Ching, this is not.
As the body count ticks upward and Kai’s composure begins to falter, it starts to dawn on Fha that this side hustle might not be worth the $5,000 he offered her. The cops get involved, too, and they begin to sort out a pattern to the bloodshed. By the time the wee hours of the morning roll around, things haven’t exactly gone the way Kai planned it, and everyone — the living and the dead — has learned a thing or two about motivation.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of? One Night In Bangkok isn’t so much homage to Collateral as it is a movie living inside the skin of a much better film. In its moody nighttime cruising through Bangkok and bursts of occasional violence, there are flashes of Nicolas Winding Refn’s weirder and much more depraved Only God Forgives (stream it on Tubi). And while we’re on the subject of targeted killings in Thailand, there’s the Pang Brothers’ 1999 crime saga Bangkok Dangerous, which later appeared in somewhat tepid remake form with Nicolas Cage as the hitman. (The Cage version is streaming on Cinemax.)
Performance Worth Watching: Mark Dacascos has a very deliberate style as an actor, in everything from his precise diction to the manner in which he moves his eyes. He employed these tools to great effect in Parabellum; for that matter, he did so as The Chairman on Iron Chef, too. The wavering script of One Night In Bangkok is too scanty for Dacascos to really seize on a moment he might make memorable. But there are hints of it as you glance at him in the rearview mirror.
Memorable Dialogue: As Kai scratches more and more people off of his ‘To Kill’ list, Dacascos turns up the heat on his death blow lines. “You’re old enough to kill…you’re old enough to die” (and the suppressed pistol goes fffffft fffffft fffffft.)
Sex and Skin: One of Kai’s targets is partying in a casino that also features writhing exotic dancers. The same unfortunate soul is also seen using cocaine and engaging with prostitution.
Our Call: One Night in Bangkok was written and directed by Wych Kaosayananda, who also helmed the bloated 2002 action head-scratcher Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. He’s made some VOD actioners since that big budget debacle, too, so it’s curious that One Night In Bangkok is at its least interesting when Kai is dispatching his victims. The supposed action scenes are instead transactional: Kai walks into an office, a fancy bathroom, or a hospital recovery room, kills one or two or even three people with bullets to the head or chest, and exits via the structure’s loading dock. Even Kai’s raid on a criminal’s well-defended mansion is completely empty of tension. (It does however have plenty of soft henchman targets in cute matching tracksuits.) In a film with violence at its core, what should be pivotal is instead paced at a murmur, as quiet as Dacascos’ cerebral Kai is as he sleeps in the backseat of his rideshare between various murders.
Dacascos has proven that he can hang with better material, and he does manage to eke out the traces of a character here, despite being handed a whole lot of nothing. His plan becomes frayed and torn before the night is through, and Kai becomes increasingly frazzled. But he stays honorable to the moral standard he’s set for himself, and we engage with that mostly because of Dacascos keeping us in the game. Everything else in this muddled noir is just collateral damage.
Our Take: STREAM IT. Well, stream it for Mark Dacascos, who deserves a leading man role, even if it’s in this vague, unconvincing noir. It’s a drag, it’s a bore, it’s really such a pity, to be looking at this riff on Collateral, and not looking at that much better film.
Johnny Loftus is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges
Watch One Night In Bangkok on HBO Max